Just like his soccer ball, success has traveled alongside Mark Forrest for much of his life.
Forrest, a senior forward, was nominated for the prestigious Senior Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, or CLASS, Award. The CLASS Award is managed by Premier Sports Management and is voted on by Division I coaches, national media and fans.
Forrest is just one of 30 student-athletes nationwide nominated for the award. Criteria for the award include achievements in community, classroom, character and competition.
Forrest’s journey began across the Atlantic Ocean in England where he lived for the first five years of his life. In the streets of London Forrest found his first love, which the British call football.
“The culture there compared to here is a lot different in regards to soccer,” Forrest said. “Everyone plays from a really young age.”
Forrest and his family would eventually move to Douglassville, Pennsylvania, where his love for soccer grew stronger.
In high school, Forrest won four Mid-Atlantic Prep League titles and two state championships while also serving as a residence hall prefect.
“I had to be responsible for people other than myself, which most kids at that age aren’t having to do,” Forrest said. “If anyone else did something wrong I also had to take responsibility.”
That kind of environment is what Forrest believes made the transition from high school to college much easier for him. Forrest quickly became acclimated to college life at Lehigh and his play on the field showed it.
As a freshman, Forrest led the Patriot League with 11 goals. Though plagued with injuries his sophomore season, the lost on-field time made an impact on his later play, serving as motivation.
“It was a challenge for our entire group,” said Ryan Hess, the men’s soccer associate head coach. “We knew how talented Mark was, and he struggled at times to find his voice while not being at practice every day. I think it was a good learning experience for him to reassess the season and improve his fitness going into his junior season.”
As a junior, Forrest had his best season yet, which included 15 goals, the fourth-most in Lehigh history. His excellence resulted in being named Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year.
“He used that season as motivation,” said Matt Morana, a senior defenseman and captain of the team. “He was pretty disappointed about his sophomore year and definitely had a point to prove. He had that mindset that he was going to prove people wrong.”
It didn’t take long for the rest of the Patriot League to notice Forrest’s skills.
“He’s a marked-man, no pun intended, for any of the games we play in,” Hess said. “They know how good is and what kind of player he can be. Mark’s role has changed to being more of a facilitator, and he’s more than willing to do that because he wants to see the team win.”
The unselfishness that Forrest holds himself to is not only limited to soccer, but also in the community.
Forrest actively takes part in programs such as Reading Rocks, a program where Lehigh athletic teams spend a day playing games and reading at local schools. He also volunteers for the Adopt-A-Family program to provide and deliver holiday gifts for children.
“Mark is a great ambassador for our program and has figured out that being a captain and a leader of this team is really important,” Hess said. “Besides being a really good leader on the field, also being a role model and a citizen.”
The list of candidates for the CLASS Award will be narrowed to 10 by the midpoint of the season, and the winner will be selected at the 2018 NCAA Men’s and Women’s College Cup championships in December.